Thursday, July 28, 2011

Radio host "investigated" for dismissing Warmism

THE Australian Communications and Media Authority is investigating a complaint about alleged inaccuracies in statements on climate change by broadcaster Alan Jones.

GetUp! had made a complaint, which it believed was not being pursued by the broadcasting regulator, but the Herald has learned ACMA is investigating the GetUp! complaint, and some others, concerning Mr Jones. If the complaint is upheld, Mr Jones may be asked to acknowledge the statement was wrong and promise not to repeat it.

The complaint says the 2GB broadcaster was wrong when he stated human beings produce only 0.001 per cent of carbon dioxide in the air.

Several climate scientists have insisted the claim is inaccurate, and the proportion of carbon dioxide in the air today for which human beings are responsible is closer to 28 per cent. They base this on the difference between the pre-industrial concentration of CO2 (about 280 parts per million) and the current concentration of about 390 parts per million.

Climate commissioner and executive director of the ANU Climate Institute Will Steffen said another calculation was the amount of additional carbon, contained in carbon dioxide, that humans contributed to the atmosphere each year. "Every year the earth - land and ocean combined - takes a net five billion tonnes of carbon out of the atmosphere, but humans put around nine billion tonnes in, meaning we are accumulating an additional four billion tonnes of carbon in the atmosphere each year," he said.

Under the commercial broadcasting code of conduct, broadcasters are required to make reasonable efforts to ensure that factual material is accurate, and are given 30 days to make a correction after they receive an initial complaint.

GetUp! has also alleged Mr Jones contravenes another section of the code of conduct which requires broadcasters to give "reasonable opportunities" to "significant viewpoints" on "controversial issues of public importance".

An ACMA spokeswoman said the organisation did not comment on specific matters it might be investigating. ACMA usually provides a preliminary report to the broadcaster for comment before a final report is written. Investigations often take several months.

A spokesman for 2GB did not return calls yesterday but, speaking to the Mumbrella website this week, Mr Jones distinguished between being a journalist and being a broadcaster. "Much of my stuff is opinion … I am a broadcaster, I don't pretend to be a journalist, I don't know what that means anyway - they've got a certificate or something," he said.

"… if those opinions lack validity, or if those opinions are extreme, or if they are overly provocative, people won't listen, I've stood the test of time."


Greenie secretiveness

It seems to be in their DNA

THE Greens have been accused of hypocrisy for demanding a right to privacy while keeping their own party forums hidden behind a shroud of secrecy.

"Parties that talk about open government should practise open governance of their own," Scott Prasser, the executive director of the Public Policy Institute at the Australian Catholic University, said yesterday.

Unlike the major parties, the Greens bar the media from their conferences. They do not provide briefings on meetings of the parliamentary party.

News of the challenge to deputy leader Christine Milne after last year's election emerged only when it was reported in The Australian weeks later. "The practices followed by other parties should be followed by the Greens," Professor Prasser said. "If the Greens want to be a grown-up party, they've got to act in grown-up ways."

Greens leader Bob Brown has claimed his parliamentarians back greater openness. "The Greens' conferences are subject to the vote of the membership, who feel sometimes shy about speaking up," he said earlier this month.

"The Green MPs are all in favour of it but if ordinary members of the party vote to say we want to discuss some policy issues in private, that is up to them."

Professor Prasser said the other major parties had opened up their forums. He pointed to Labor's embarrassment in 1963 when it was claimed the party was run by an unaccountable executive of "36 faceless men".

Professor Prasser described the issue of openness as a test of Senator Brown's leadership. "He has set the scene for the Greens for so long," he said. "He shouldn't baulk at this new challenge."


Gillard and friends move from GetUp to shut up

The Green/Left push for media censorship

By James Allan, Garrick professor of law at the University of Queensland.

LATELY the Gillard government has been clothing itself in GetUp! attire, but last week it flirted with adding some ShutUp accessories.

The problems started when the political agenda of this government started to sound remarkably like the agenda of the far left special interest group GetUp!

It's a world view that allows you to believe democracy is a sufficiently malleable principle that you can barefacedly lie to the voters and not pay a big price. (How many billboards have you seen GetUp!, that self-styled protector of democratic values, pay for condemning Julia Gillard for lying to the voters? That would be zero, right?)

I suspect I'm not revealing any state secret when I say the political policy positions of GetUp! -- reeking of po-faced pieties and "We are the World" platitudes -- are distinctly minority ones. If this becomes your core support group as a government then you are in big, big trouble. Which is when Gillard moved from GetUp! to ShutUp. Apparently the thinking is that we have too much free speech here in Australia. Maybe we ought to pick up on the great democrat Bob Brown's musings and go back a few centuries so we can regulate what the press says.

You really can't be against ensuring that only proper, acceptable views get disseminated, can you? I mean, it works in Cuba and Iran and Venezuela, doesn't it? Or if you decide to display your independence from Brown, to show voters who really is boss, you may just opt to bring in new privacy laws that allow new ways to sue other people.

But putting all the siren song supporters of privacy laws to one side (and we can all await with eager anticipation the next GetUp! billboard in support of this latest thought-bubble policy creation), here is what is at stake.

Any new privacy law regime will make inroads on what people can say. It will take some speech off the table.

There is an inevitable trade-off between free speech concerns and privacy concerns. If you shift the goalposts in favour of more privacy, then by definition you place more limits on free speech.

And I think that's a terrible idea. First off, our laws are already easily sufficient to handle phone hacking situations of the sort engulfing Britain at present. So that's a red herring, plain and simple.

Second, more aggressive privacy laws work not simply by allowing people actually to sue. They work also by creating an atmosphere where people censor themselves because they are afraid of being sued, precisely in the same way that our terrible hate speech laws at present over-reach.

Just look at France, which has strong privacy laws. You had an atmosphere there, no doubt also culturally influenced, where the past exploits of Dominique Strauss-Kahn came as a surprise to most people, save reporters. Do you think those exploits, and I explicitly assume that the New York City charges against him will collapse, but do you think his behaviour might influence whether some people voted for him?

Tony Abbott should have no part in this ShutUp agenda. In any contest between free speech and privacy I think long-term best consequences favour the former much more often. Certainly our present status quo needs no rebalancing in favour of more speech restrictions, and that's true even if it's sold under the banner of some human right to privacy, with a few perfunctory references to international treaties.

Amazingly, however, our present GetUp!/Gillard government seems to think a new ShutUp agenda may help it out with the voters. You have to wonder what planet it inhabits.

We can all only watch this train wreck of incompetence with incredulity. From GetUp to ShutUp, the whole thing has been one giant F . . kUp.


A confident secularist society would tolerate school religion

Can a half-hour chat about God really warp children's minds? Listening to Australia's increasingly irate secularists, you could be forgiven for thinking so.

They have upped the ante in their war against "special religious instruction" in public schools, depicting it as the modern-day equivalent of a Christian crusade arriving on horseback to convert young Aussies to a lifetime of Bible-bashing.

It's worth reminding ourselves that special religious instruction, where church volunteers teach children about religion, doesn't take place in all public primary schools. And in those schools where it does, it only takes up half an hour a week - far less time than the average kid spends pretending to kill people in video games or being preached to by SpongeBob SquarePants.

Even the most fervent nun or red-eyed pastor would struggle to indoctrinate children in such time-restricted weekly hook-ups.

That is the word most commonly used by secularists opposed to special religious instruction: indoctrination. They believe, as a Sunday Age report summed it up, that these lessons are "designed to convert, not educate".

The Commonwealth Ombudsman demanded this week that the federal government clarify when a chaplain crosses the line, from teaching kids about Christianity to trying to convert them to it.

There is a ban on proselytising in schools, but the Ombudsman says it isn't clear what counts as proselytising. For example, what if a chaplain says to a schoolchild "God loves you" - is that attempted conversion?

I say calm down. Secularists' panic reveals what really lies behind their disdain for these harmless half-hour lessons: a lack of faith in their own creed, in their own ability to win over the next generation to the grounded, rational, Enlightened outlook.

The notion that children can easily be indoctrinated seriously underestimates their robustness. Even before they have reached intellectual maturity, kids have a healthy inner demon telling them not to believe everything they're told.

I attended convent schools in London from the ages of three to 18. The Dominican sisters charged with turning me from a grubby-knee'd son of Irish immigrants into something approximating a civilised man gave us far more than weekly half-hour doses of religious instruction.

But were we "indoctrinated", turned into Catholic drones? Were we hell. A friend and I beheaded a statue of St Vincent de Paul. The school Bibles were awash with the most obscene and blasphemous graffiti, including the scrawling of bodily appendages on to pictures of Christ and the insertion of speech bubbles above disciples' heads saying things like "I AM GAY".

As to the warnings against masturbation when we got to secondary school, we responded to those by writing on the walls of the boys' toilet: "Masturbation is evil/Evil is a sin/Sins are forgiven/So get stuck in."

In my experience, those subjected to more than their fair share of religious instruction during their school years now tend to be, if anything, more healthily sceptical than what we might call "normal people". Everyone I went to school with is now either an atheist (like me) or an agnostic. Perhaps years of being religiously instructed boosted our BS-detection skills. Certainly no one I know from my school days went on to embrace any other religions or New Age nonsense or end-of-days environmentalism.

"The world is coming to an end and we will all be judged for our carbon-use, you say? Yeah, yeah, I've heard it all before."

A far more confident secular society, one that trusted in its rationalist public institutions, would have no problem whatsoever with occasional church-run classes. It would be able to cope with having Christians briefly converse with children, secure in the knowledge that there is a better secular alternative out there which will one day surely win the loyalty of the majority of these children.

Today, however, in our downbeat, misanthropic times, when man is more likely to be branded a polluter and a problem than a rational being capable of profound thought, humanists are on the backfoot. And they find it easier to have a pop at the religious, to mock and harry faith-based institutions, than they do to get their own humanist house in order.

In essence, when secularists call on state bodies to expel church volunteers from public schools, they are admitting defeat in the battle of ideas. Lacking the moral cojones to lay out their secularist views and to stand by them through thick and thin, they instead run to the authorities and plead with them to rap the knuckles of those alleged Christian bully boys invading their classrooms.

It is unbecoming of the great tradition of secularism for its adherents to behave like overgrown school snitches.


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